Author Topic: My long story, after 20 years  (Read 1483 times)

Offline Armando

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My gynecomastia story is long, and all happened some time ago, but I thought it would be useful to share. Some of the memories are a bit hazy, for reasons that will become apparent, but this is as close to what happened as I can remember.

I went through puberty pretty early, at around the age of 11 and my breasts started to develop fairly soon afterwards, starting small and expanding to my horror. As someone who has always suffered from fairly severe asthma, I was taken regularly to the doctor by my mother. I guess my breasts became apparent at the age of about 12, and reached full size at the age of around 13. I honestly have a hard time remembering how large they were, but they were clearly noticeable even when wearing a fairly heavy jumper (I know this isn't just my self image, as I received comments in such situations). Having said that, my self image was pretty warped by this stage.

At school, I attracted a fair amount of abuse - "breast man" was fairly common - and much of this was unavoidable due to the obligatory nature of PE, communal showering and the practice of sometimes having to go "skins". I wasn't the only case at my school, but I think I was the most severe, and certainly seemed the most upset. Other boys with a fairly severe condition seemed to be perfectly at ease, or so it appeared to me. I became used to being treated a little like a circus freak, adopting strange postures to cover my breasts when wearing t-shirts and being bullied into moving my arms so others could "see". In retrospect, I might have spoken up, but I found talking about it almost impossible, and feared the lack of sympathy that was to follow.

At the age of about 15/16, my doctor recommended surgery due to the relatively large size of my breasts, which gave me a ray of hope. However, my mother was adamant that it was a waste of time and that cosmetic surgery was not going to be an option. (I'll note here that my mother was aware of the nature of these conditions, having a mustache herself, of which she was painfully embarrassed. This never gave her much empathy of my situation.) Despite my weak attempts at protest (even that was pretty hard for me) my mother stayed with her decision, and my father backed her up, despite showing some understanding of the distress it was causing me.

Roughly 6-12 months later, we went on a family holiday to Italy. The trips to the beach were a particular dread for me, and I was determined to keep my t-shirt on in the baking sun. My father, on seeing this, took me to one side and angrily hissed at me that he thought I was being silly but that I would not embarrass him by keeping my t-shirt on at the beach. I understood this (correctly, in my view) as a threat that he would point out my condition to the extended family with us - aunts, cousins and my grandmother - if I kept my t-shirt on. So I returned to the group and removed my t-shirt, feeling extremely vulnerable. I remember that I had just learnt how to solve a Rubik's cube, which I performed repeatedly (I could do it in about 2-3 minutes). This helped calm and distract me while the family chatted and sunbathed.

At this point, my mother turned to my grandmother and asked her opinion about my breasts as she pointed at me. My grandmother observed that there were just like a girls, but that she wanted to check the feel of them. She walked up to me to see for herself, without even a nod at attaining some kind of consent. From here my memory becomes very clouded, and I seem to remember retreating into myself and away from the world which seemed to melt away.

I stayed with my condition for a few more years, unable to challenge my mother's decision and barely able to confront it. I had repeated fantasies of cutting myself, and my
body image suffered hugely. Not all was negative, however, as I had two girlfriends in this period - one from 16 to 19, and the other from 19 to 22 - both of whom were amazingly supportive and understanding. So, at the age of 18, I felt I would have the right to demand surgery (from the NHS) without needing parental consent and went about trying to get it. This was complicated by the fact that I was going to University at the time, but ideally I wanted the surgery outside of term time, and hence while I was at my parent's home, so as not to interfere with my studies. This felt like a long and frustrating process, in which I was examined by at least 4 doctors, all of whom immediately agreed that surgery was the best option and that it should be done as soon as possible. I remember one meeting in particular, with my consultant and what appeared to be a bunch of medical students. I hadn't been asked about this, but he proceeded to talk about my "severe" condition and discussed/displayed my genitals to check on my sexual development (this was pretty standard, and pretty much every doctor I saw did this, though few with such cold detachment). In any case, anything was worth it to get the surgery. I finally got a date when I was 19. Unfortunately, during this period, my mother developed terminal stomach cancer and was a patient at the same hospital I was to have the surgery.

I remember going to see her, after a chemo treatment I believe, where she was very concerned that I was going to have an unnecessary operation. She said that it wasn't worth it, that I should just live with it, and that if I really loved her I would cancel the surgery. I nodded, and inwardly raged, but went ahead with the surgery anyway.

I recall going to the ward and finding myself unable to describe my condition when asked - I referred to my chest, to looks of confusion from the nurses. I can still see the look of bewilderment and incomprehension of a young doctor who examined me, who couldn't understand why I hadn't had surgery years earlier. "Don't you find it difficult when you change at the gym?", he asked. I managed to whisper a "yes" but was completely unable to offer any more by way of an explanation, to his extreme puzzlement.

Finally, the day of surgery arrived and I fondly remember a card from my then girlfriend who couldn't be with me - it said "Have a day" with a picture of what would have been a smiley face, replaced by a face with a neutral expression. I laughed very hard about that, for a long time, and was deeply touched by the support. And then the surgery happened....

....This was something I had been waiting for, for years, but pretty soon I realised that it hadn't removed nearly as much as I had wanted. My girlfriend assured me that my breasts were now gone, but even the small lumps remaining seemed far too much to me. My nipple sensitivity was gone, which is standard but which no one had talked to me about, and one nipple was part way folded. Both these things corrected themselves over time, but I remember my incomprehension and disappointment at how it seemed nothing had changed despite getting my long sought after surgery. In this my girlfriend was pillar of support, arguing forcefully that I had a body image problem and that I did not need extra surgery as I was insisting on. I took a lot of convincing, but reluctantly decided to try to work on it.

My mother died soon after, which complicated a lot of things for me, but I determined that the gynecomastia would not win. My shame and fear were still overwhelming, but I was absolutely set on fighting and confronting them. I tried to take opportunities to swim, wear t-shirts, and even tell people about my former condition. It was never easy, and sometimes, I simply couldn't go through with what I had decided was necessary. Still, I knew that falling was ok, but giving up wasn't, and I kept at it, pushing my boundaries at a pace of my choosing.

It was very slow. Painfully slow. But I made progress. I guess it took me about 15 years to properly get over it. During that time it became better, but I can honestly say that the shame and embarrassment has completely gone. I can wear a t-shirt no problem, I can even go topless. I can easily tell people that I used to have breasts. Some of the memories disappeared during this time, and reappeared later causing a huge amount of grief. Some of it seems dream-like, with an air of unreality, and initially I felt quite a deep confusion, especially on remembering my grandmother on the beach. I think I cried practically non-stop for two days when that came back, realising that it hadn't ever really gone away, I had just buried it.

I was angry for a long time, but not any longer. I get that there was no malice intended, just a brutal insensitivity, but its not something I choose to feel angry about any more, Instead, I like to feel happy and proud of myself for conquering something that I once feared would always be with me. An irrational loathing of my own body that has been replaced by a confidence and ease that others envy. Had I not distrusted the medical profession so deeply, I could have sought help via some kind of counselling to speed the process, and I would urge any of you who feel touched by some of the same issues to do so. It can help, and the problems you have needn't be with you forever.



Offline Paa_Paw

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It is odd, I was 12 years old in 1949. There was teasing and even groping but a guy simply had to live with it. Surgery back then was not good, so there was no other choice. If you were bold enough to stand your ground and not be a victim, the bullies would find someone else to torment.

I had high hopes that the internet would provide good information at such high speed that conditions such as ours would be more commonly understood and any stigma removed. The internet is a miserable failure in that regard. Bad information is frequently more sensational so it travels just as fast and actually has wider appeal so it is duplicated more often. The result is that phony herbal remedies are easier to find than good information.

I do not think that the condition of Gynecomastia is any more common now than in times past, but there is no doubt that more young men are troubled by it. The impact is not physical, but Psychological and it can be great.

Welcome to the forum, We are all in this together. Hopefully there is some consolation just in knowing that you are far from being alone.
Grandpa Dan


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